This Lawsuit-Avoiding, Life-Saving Construction Step You Probably Never Heard of is Critical to Building Your Custom Home
An Interview with John Gifford, Project Manager with HomeWrights Custom Homes
Steve: John, tell us about yourself!
John: I’ve been with HomeWrights Custom Homes coming up on one year! My background started framing houses in the Vail Valley. I went on to college got a civil engineering degree. I worked in production homes for a while and then moved on to commercial stone and stucco installation as a project manager in the Denver area.
Steve: What attracted you to HomeWrights Custom Homes?
John: I wanted to get back more towards the general contracting phase of construction and certainly HomeWrights has a very unique approach. With the Owner-Builder program and the turnkey program and I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to further my knowledge of general contracting and share all of my experience with Owner-Builder clients as well as the Turnkey clients.
Steve: So the topic for today is called Shoring. So what exactly does Shoring mean and why is it a big concern?
John: Shoring is when we’re talking about new construction that have very narrow property setbacks. It is basically done to stabilize neighboring properties during the new construction. It’s a major concern in single-family home excavation and foundation installation. Rules and regulations vary from municipality to municipality. And the shoring design is required as part of the permitting process.
The shoring plan begins with a soils test. Most people don’t realize how important soils testing is. In the Denver area, the soil composition varies greatly from one site to another. A soils engineer will do the initial testing and provide that data to the architects and general contractors.
Steve: So let’s define shoring because every new home builder should at least understand the basics of what it is and why it’s so critical to the successful construction of their new home.
John: Shoring consists of supporting piers used during construction excavation as well as during the repair of buildings. This support helps to hold back earth from collapsing into a building site or to relieve the load on a masonry wall while it is repaired or reinforced.
Shoring design typically follows the new construction property line. Depending on the shoring design, piers are placed at specified intervals to hold back neighboring property from movement. Most shoring in the Denver area require a 12-inch pier but if the soils are bad, 16-in diameter piers may be required. The soils engineer will dictate how deep that goes.
Steve: It’s only required some of the time and again, the parameters are if your setback is less than or five foot or less from the neighboring property you need to plan on shoring.
John: Steve it’s the neighboring properties that are going to dictate whether you need shoring or not. If there’s established houses or garages on either one of those properties next to you, then you will be required to do shoring to stabilize that ground.
Steve: When you’re excavating that lot and you’ve got that big wall of dirt there. At what point is shoring actually begin
John: Shoring is the very first thing that will be installed during the new construction process of a single-family residence. This is done prior to any excavation.
Steve: I wonder if some people might confuse shoring with retaining wall.
John: It is a totally different process and totally different issue. The shoring piers are actually for the stabilization of the excavation for the foundation installation. The shoring piers can be 25 to 30 feet in depth in order to stabilize that neighboring property.
Steve: What does it look like? Is this basically a wall or is just a set of piers?
John: It’s not a wall. The piers are spread out along the property line. The soils engineers are going to dictate how close they are. Typically it’s a 12-inch pier, three foot on center.
Steve: So when somebody is drawing up their plans is the architect the one who’s going to say, “Hey this property will require shoring!”
John: Well, the architect certainly should bring it up but it should come right from the soils engineer. One of the first things that we will do right when we start the permitting process is have a soil engineer go out and do a soil test on that property.
That soils test is certainly going to tell us what type of foundation should be recommended, whether it be a footing or pier foundation.
But also the soils engineer at the time of his initial boring is going to say, “Hey, there is neighboring property to your north that is three foot off of the property line. You will be required to do shoring.”
See one of John’s clients in the video below explains the Owner-Builder Program…
Steve: What does the pier installation process look like?
John: You drill every other pier the first day and then the following day come back and drill the other piers in between. They are filled with rebar and concrete so they’re not going anywhere.
Steve: So then at what point does the inspector come back?
John: The soils engineer is basically on-site the entire time the piers are being drilled. In the Denver area we never really know where the water table is but if you hit an aquifer, you have some additional work to do to set up those piers. They have to drop a 12 or 16 inch steel pipe down into the hole to prevent caving in and then pour concrete into the casing and then they’ll pull the casing out after it sets up. This is known as casing the pier.
Steve: Okay, and so do people sometimes try to get out of this process or get around it so they don’t have to spend money on this? This sounds expensive!
John: This is a very expensive process to be perfectly honest and within the city and county of Denver, they are going to dictate that you must put in shoring piers if your setbacks are as what we had described earlier less than 10-foot setback. So there’s no getting around it.
John: Every municipality has its rules but as a responsible general contractor, it is our responsibility to ensure the safety of the neighboring properties as well as the workers.
Steve: My guess is that most people have no idea what “shoring” is unless you’re in the construction business.
John: Well that’s why we wrote this piece. At least people have a basic understanding of this critical step in custom home building that starts and ends in just a few days so it’s barely visible but it is extremely important that is done and that it is done properly.
Steve: Well at least people have a basic understanding of “shoring” and if they have more questions, they can call John Gifford at HomeWrights Custom Homes!
Steve: What does all this cost?
John: There are a lot of variables such as water versus no water or other unusual problems. But a typical 3,000 square foot home will need to budget $17,000 to $25,000 for shoring.
Steve: This is not the sexiest part of construction is it?
John: No but it really it is something that nobody thinks about yet it is very critical. Done properly it can prevent lawsuits from a neighbor or it can literally save a worker’s life during construction.
Steve: Let me ask you about another topic that people might not understand! Let’s chat a bit about the Owner-Builder Program at HomeWrights!
John: Well is if someone has basic project management skills, communicates clearly, and can manage a checkbook, they can be an Owner-Builder.
Steve: Well in our new crazy world of Covid-19 how can people benefit from the Owner-Builder Program?
John: I think the owner Builder program has been so popular and I truly believe it’s even going to become more popular due to the number of people that are working from home since the Covid onset. I know that during this quarantine time that people certainly have taken a re-evaluation of their current living conditions.
Steve: They may want a bigger home, a nicer home, or a more affordable home!
John: Bob Hinz started this company almost 20 years ago and it didn’t take long for him to realize that people always want to save money. And at the same time, the skills needed to be a good contractor were not always exclusive to builders.
He realized that there were a lot of people that had those project management skills, communication skills, and just the common sense it takes to manage a checkbook and do a little planning.
Steve: That pretty much describes the typical HomeWrights Owner-Builder client.
John: Correct. I think a lot of people also want to have much more interaction with the subcontractors during the actual construction of their new home. It gives them more control over everything and they get to make decisions based on their desires not the cost-saving perspective of the general contractor.
Steve: So the Owner-Builder basically manages the building process and HomeWrights consultants guide them and coach them along the way.
John: Yes. And we help keep our Owner-Builders on track, out of trouble, and thinking ahead.
Steve: And you have a thing called the HomeWrights Toolbox to help your clients succeed, correct?
John: The HomeWrights toolbox is, for lack of a better word, a database of subcontractors that we have worked with over the last 18 years that we update frequently. It basically gives the Owner-Builder a place to find subcontractors from shoring to final landscaping and everything in between.
It gives them that information to reach out to vetted subcontractors that HomeWrights has been working with. It helps people find the right people to fit their personality and their budget.
Steve: With the Owner-Builder Program, you, as a Project Coordinator are looking over the shoulder of the homeowner as much or as little as they need.
John: That’s the beauty of this program. Everyone one has different skills and availability so we support our clients in whatever way suits them.
Steve: So how do you charge for this service?
John: There is a flat fee that is agreed to before construction begins. It is based on the square footage of the home. So the fee doesn’t change with the homeowners changes.
You can make changes to the plan, the materials, the room sizes or whatever you want and our fee remains the same. That’s the beauty of this program, the Owner-Builder is in complete control of the budget and everything else.
Steve: And that’s why you say, “Don’t hire a contractor, be the contractor.”
John: Well when people find out they can get exactly what they want AND save $100k or more, they’re willing to put on that contractor’s hat for a while!
Why HomeWrights Custom Homes?
Every custom home is unique and HomeWright’s has a team of professional builders to partner with you as you build wealth for your future by acting as your own custom home builder.
Whether you’re taking advantage of our Owner-Builder program or our Turnkey approach to building your custom home, recognizing the importance of setting goals and having clear intentions will make that journey towards your dream home a lot smoother!